You can use an ABM to test hypotheses for how something works, like a thought experiment. But building, running, and analyzing a model is science, in fact like an empirical science. So the relationship between the model and a philosophical point is similar to the relationship between some conceptual issue and the science of that issue. So what role does philosophy play in making and/or interpreting models? How can the results be philosophically relevant/important/implicating? Can science ever decide something in philosophy?

Science in the role of technology is to take simple components and combine them to create something more useful than the components apart. So people maintain their feeling of wonder because they understand the development of products less and less…it's sufficiently complicated to be like magic. Philosophy, on the other hand, is the enterprise of making muddled things clearer. A successful philosophical project will propose distinctions that seem difficult and stressed to begin with, and then obvious when done. So it is in some way the opposite of technology, because it simplifies rather than complicates.

Yet I want to call this process of increasingly clarifying concepts and making distinctions conceptual technology. And conceptual technology is the "product" that philosophy has to offer other fields, to improve them both academically and practically.

Certainly conceptual clarity is useful in making models (e.g. understanding that the species concept is vague in an evolutionary model affects the form and use of the model). But how can a model of some phenomenon (e.g. of evolution of species or liquidity) impact our understanding of that concept (e.g. liquidity) or its properties (like vagueness). Think also about the evolution of the moral experience: how does the evolutionary explanation for our moral reactions and experiences affect our understanding of morality as a philosophical notion? In general, it is indisputable that clearer concepts can lead to better science, but the impact of more refined science on philosophy is much less clear.

The way I usually think about this is that once it is possible to build a model or perform an experiment on some phenomenon, then most of the philosophical work on that phenomenon must have already been done. Our understanding of the concept of liquidity is not complete, and though many experiments utilize liquids and the fluid properties of liquids, there are no tests that I can think of to distinguish features of the liquidity (how liquid it is). But on further thought there are things like viscosity, pressure, throughput, laminar vs turbulent flow, etc. We can test for these features of liquids without understanding what it really means to be a liquid or makes something a liquid. There is a real sense in which these feature are part of what it means to be a liquid and how liquidy something is.

But in our philosophical understanding of liquidity, the scientific facts of flow and pressure and viscosity seem unhelpful. The concept of liquidity includes these features, but our understanding of liquidity as a concept doesn't seem helped much by knowing (for example) the viscosity variation under different temperatures and pressures. Our normative concepts seem unaffected by any account of the evolutionary fitness of certain reactions to behaviors. Our philosophical questions seem to be about exactly those things that we can't collect data about. But that's jumping to the conclusion.

I am more and more convinced that if you have a philosophical question, and you can build a model to test it, then you didn't really have a philosophical question. If, on the other hand, you think that making a philosophical distinction can improve some scientific result, then of course you could make a model to test that by making different distinctions in the models. And what I really want to think more about it, can we have two theories about some phenomenon, build different models of that phenomena, and then the results of those models refines our concepts of how things work?